Dreams and Shadows by Robert Cargill

(9.3/10) Perfect for fans of the older, grimmer fairy-tales.

Book of the Year 2014 (see all)

I really enjoyed the debut novel from C Robert Cargill. The novel focuses on the lives of two boys, Ewan and Colby. Both boys have a fantastical journey ahead of them, Ewan is stolen by fairies from his parents at an early age by a specialist child stealing fairy (Dithers) and Colby meets a djinn (Yashar) who agrees to grant him wishes which leads him to see the world.

The sound of “fairy story” does make you think of young children’s story but the fairies in this novel are not for the faint-hearted and include in their number some thoroughly despicable characters.

Cargill’s characterisation is very strong within the book. Amongst the fairy world of the Limestone Kingdom Bill the Shadow is a favourite of mine and Knocks and his Red Caps are great villains and antithesis to Ewan. What is important to the novel and done very well by Cargill is the development of Colby and Ewan’s characters through the book which culminates in what their linked destinies hold for them.

The chapter length is good and this aids the pace of the book. Cargill makes use of chapters that provide information on the fairy world as a reference material between the action. I felt this was a useful tool to build on the previous chapter and also explain some of the details of what went before the narrative of the previous chapter.

In my view the novel would suit a TV or film adaptation (no surprise as Cargill is a screen writer as well) due to the twists and turns of the narrative, the strong collection of individual characters and the tension that is increased through the book.

I also have to mention the amazing cover art which reflects perfectly the feel of the otherworldly story.

A very strong debut.
Joe Warren, 9/10

Dreams and Shadows is a book of two parts, the first regarding the meeting and friendship of two boys. One boy, Ewan, lives with the fairies (Sidhe) of Limestone Kingdom, where he has never experienced a normal human childhood. The second boy, Colby, was a fairly average child until he met the Djinn Yashar and so began his adventure. The first part of the book focuses on the loss of childhood innocence while he second moves into the future and is about living with the consequences of your actions.

I really enjoyed the structure of this story, from the changing of the character’s perspective to the gaining of more understanding about the world we are encountering from excerpts from the books of Dr Thaddeus Ray. This is a story that includes everything from Heaven (Fallen Angels) to Hell (The Wild Hunt) - if you can imagine it, it’s probably in here.

As half of this book is written from two seven year old boys’ perspectives you can appreciate everything they feel, everything that isn’t explained to them about how the world around them works. Yet at the same time there is a maturity found here when they have to deal with the terrors around them. Dreams and Shadows also focuses on the different kinds of relationships people and fairies have with each other, the love and despair of family life, the kinship between friends that can bind you for life and the oaths and vows you make to protect yourself and other people.

This novel begins with a perfect love story and yet this isn’t about the love story, there are no happy endings here, instead this is a dark tale where bad things happen to the characters involved. Sometimes this can simply be because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Have you ever read older versions of fairy tales? The ones where bad things happen to people who don’t know the rules and fairies aren’t all sweetness and light? If you have and you loved them, then this is the story for you... if you haven’t read those tales then you should read Dreams and Shadows anyway as you might just be surprised.
Michelle Herbert, 9.5/10

Reviews by and Michelle Herbert

Our interview with Robert Cargill

Christopher Robert Cargill, resident of Austin, Texas, is a novelist, film critic and screenwriter. His debut novel, Dreams & Shadows was very well received by both readers and critics and this month will see the publicat [...]

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